Encyclopedia of Geropsychology

2017 Edition
| Editors: Nancy A. Pachana

Decision-Making Capacity in Older Adults, Overview of

  • J. Kaci FairchildEmail author
  • Melissa A. Yanovitch
  • Caitlin S. Moore
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-287-082-7_355


Assessment; Competency; Decision-making


The necessary cognitive and functional abilities required to perform a specific task or make a specific decision.


The term capacity refers to a person’s ability to perform a specific task or make a specific decision. Determinations of capacity have historically been made by clinicians in clinical settings. This is in contrast to the legal term competency, which is a determination made by the court. At times these terms have been used interchangeably; however, for the purposes of this section, we henceforth use the terms “clinical capacity” and “legal capacity.”

Psychologists are increasingly called upon to make determinations of capacity. The reasons for this are multifactorial. It is widely cited that the number of older adults worldwide has grown exponentially. And while not all older adults develop dementia, they may experience physical and mental changes as they age that place them at risk for impaired...

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Singapore (outside the USA) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Kaci Fairchild
    • 1
    Email author
  • Melissa A. Yanovitch
    • 2
  • Caitlin S. Moore
    • 3
  1. 1.Sierra Pacific Mental Illness Research Education and Clinical Center, VA Palo Alto Health Care SystemStanford University School of MedicinePalo AltoUSA
  2. 2.PGSP-Stanford PsyD ConsortiumPalo AltoUSA
  3. 3.Ryan Dolby Brain Health CenterCalifornia Pacific Medical Center Neurosciences InstituteSan FranciscoUSA