Failure to validate information
Number 6 in Tim Farmer’s series: The most common mistakes when assessing mental capacity
The ability to be able to correctly identify the information that you are given during an assessment is absolutely crucial when attempting to determine if someone has capacity. Unfortunately many professionals don’t seem to take the time to gather the correct information prior to the assessment. Let me give you an example.
I was asked to assess an elderly gentleman with a diagnosis of dementia who was accusing his sons of stealing from his estate. He had previously been assessed by another professional who deemed him to have mental capacity and instigated a police investigation into the sons’ actions. The sons vigorously denied this and asked me to assess their father in relation to his capacity to manage his property and financial affairs.
Upon meeting the elderly gentleman I was struck by how well presented he was. His concentration appeared to be good and he was able to furnish me with a very detailed story relating to his sons activities. During the assessment he informed me that his sons had redirected all his bank statements and had been systematically withdrawing money from his account. When I queried how he knew his sons were withdrawing he money when he had no access to bank statements he just insisted that he did. I then asked him if he could tell me the contents of his estate and he informed that prior to his sons withdrawing funds it had been in the region of £500,000.
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This is where the importance of being able to validate the information became crucial. During my information gathering I had learnt that his estate was in fact worth £5.2 million and that it was kept in trust and that the sons were not trustees and did not have the ability to access his money. Information the other professional had not gathered prior to the assessment.
It comes back again to the setting of the threshold of understanding and the need to be clear about the information required to satisfy the threshold. Be clear about the question to be decided upon and be clear about the information required to determine this. Once you have collected this information then you can start assessing. If you find yourself unable to validate information at the time, reserve judgment on an outcome until you are able to validate that information.
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