Concerned About Client Decision-Making Capacity? Considerations for Practice

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Many more people are reaching old age than ever before, and older people are increasingly living longer. As the nation experiences this unprecedented growth of older Americans, geriatric case managers are likely to encounter many clients at very advanced ages. Concomitantly, practitioners will confront elders with questionable decision-making capacity, as dementia and other cognitive impairments are more common among the older age groups. These clients pose potential safety and well-being concerns and may be vulnerable to exploitation, neglect, and abuse in their homes. Case managers’ responses to such client scenarios may range from little involvement, by acquiescing to the client’s right to make autonomous decisions, to resorting to legal action, which may lead to a substantial loss of rights for the elder. This article provides considerations for practice with elders presenting with questionable decision-making capacity and precarious living situations. The distinction between capacity and competency is presented and factors affecting decision making are discussed. Ethical aspects are addressed and the process of assessing capacity is reviewed to enhance case managers’ practices in this area.

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Care Management Journals, v. 6, issue 2, p. 50-55

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