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What can affect Mental Capacity?

Lady with emotional disabilities using pet therapy

Mental Capacity can be impacted by an impairment or disturbance of the brain that directly affects cognitive functioning. In today’s blog we look at a selection of short-term and long-term conditions that can be a direct factor.

Short-term conditions or disturbances of the brain

Mental Capacity can be affected by a whole range of prescribed and non-prescribed medications and drugs. Once ingested they impact on the body’s systems, resulting in a change of presentation and mental status. This can include a lack of focus, decreased reaction times, reduced problem solving and increased time to process.

Other short-term conditions that can impact Mental Capacity include:

  • Infections
  • Constipation
  • Panic attacks
  • And more…

In each case it is important to note that all of these items are short-term conditions that may well improve in the future. As such, if someone is found to lack capacity as a result of a short-term condition or disturbance of the brain then is it advised to delay making a decision wherever possible. This will give them the best chance to make a decision for themselves should they be reassessed as having capacity once they have recovered.

Whatever the outcome, all assessments should be documented thoroughly, alongside all outcomes and plans of action.

Long-term conditions or disturbances of the brain

Long-term conditions that can impact capacity often come with a professional medical diagnosis, and are the sorts of things that will not change presentation in the short-term. These can include:

  • Dementia
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Huntington’s Disease
  • Cerebrovascular Accident (CVA – also known as a stroke)
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders

In each case, it is important to first confirm the professional diagnosis. This will guide the options available to manage the condition; it will also help clarify areas of impairment.

However, there may be times where it is not possible to determine a diagnosis. One example might be if the individual has not been in active receipt of health services (for whatever reason). In these situations, all possible assessment, observation and justification for one’s professional opinion of an impairment or disturbance of the brain should be recorded, alongside the action taken.

Other conditions

As well as short and long-term conditions that can impact on mental capacity there are also some conditions that cross both categories or can fluctuate. One example is Bipolar disorder – a long-term mental health condition that can have periods of remission. Meanwhile, complex pain conditions such as CRPS can also lead to changing capacity as flare-ups may require further medications that may impact upon cognition.

We should also be mindful of individuals who may have addictions. This is another particularly difficult area to assess – not least because there may be underlying causes that the addictions can mask.

Documentation is key

Whatever case you are presented with, it is important to document everything, including formal diagnoses and how the condition(s) present for the individual in question. This helps to support and justify steps taken during the Mental Capacity Assessment, protecting both you and the individual being assessed. Good quality documentation is also required under the causative nexus as it helps to demonstrate the link between the functional and diagnostic stages of the two-stage test for Mental Capacity.

For support with Mental Capacity, including training, consultancy and assessments for complex cases, see our Services pages.

To find out more about how we can help you and your team with the Mental Capacity Act, please get in touch.

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