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What is mental capacity?

Mental capacity is the ability to make decisions for yourself. This includes ‘every day’ decisions, such as deciding what to do with your money, what to wear and how to spend your time. It also includes ‘less ordinary’ decisions, such as giving consent for a medical procedure or treatment or determining who will benefit from your estate.

Someone may lack mental capacity due to an illness or disability such as some mental health problems, dementia or a learning disability. If someone lacks mental capacity they may be unable to do the following:

  • Understand information given to them to make a particular decision
  • Retain that information long enough to be able to make the decision
  • Use or weigh up the information to make the decision
  • Communicate their decision
University College Dublin (UCD)National Centre for the Protection of Older People (NCPOP)Health Services Executive (HSE)Older People's Empowerment Network (OPEN)
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