Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario

Mental Capacity Considerations

  • Mental capacity can fluctuate and may be situation dependent (e.g., a former diagnosis from previous records may not apply).
  • Advanced age does not equate to lack of mental capacity.
  • A diagnosis or clinical condition (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease or mental illness) does not automatically mean a person lacks mental capacity.
  • Mental capacity is not determined by any particular test, such as Mini Mental Status Examination.
  • Competent older adults have the right to make choices that others may consider unwise or unsafe. Just because an older adult makes such a decision does not mean that they lack capacity.
  • There are various ways to determine if someone lacks mental capacity. In some jurisdictions, this determination is made in consultation with physicians or a capacity assessor, but this does not always apply.
  • Depression and delirium can sometimes be confused with lack of mental capacity. 
Older Adults
Preventing and Addressing Abuse and Neglect of Older Adults: Person-Centred, Collaborative, System-Wide Approaches
Point of Care Resources