Skip to content
Skip to main content

About this free course

Become an OU student

Download this course

Share this free course

Understanding mental capacity
Understanding mental capacity

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.


The key learning points from this week are:

  • When supporting older people to make decisions or when making decisions on their behalf, risk needs to be balanced with well-being and personal choice.
  • Personhood is a useful concept for challenging our assumptions and attitudes in relation to older people and mental capacity; in law, everyone is considered a ‘person’ and worthy of moral consideration.
  • Social pressures and practical realities can impinge on older people’s lives, even though they may have capacity, for example in driving, their daily living routines and whether they live alone.
  • The law can intervene in disputes or where risks can be anticipated and decisions made while capacity is intact. Measures include power of attorney, advance decisions and the intervention of the Court of Protection may be brought into play. 

You should now be able to:

  • explain some of the attitudes towards and expectations of older people in UK society
  • explain how assessing mental capacity often involves balancing risk and safety against choice and wellbeing
  • define what it means to be a ‘person’
  • describe three common issues for older people that are linked to mental capacity: driving vehicles, daily living routines and living alone
  • outline three mechanisms where decision making is delegated or wholly assumed by others: power of attorney, advance decisions and the Court of Protection.