This page provides information on the following topics:
- the ability to understand information that is relevant to making a decision; and
- the ability to appreciate the reasonably foreseeable consequences of making or not making the decision.
Capacity is measured on a spectrum. This means there is a range of different options, from having good capacity to having some capacity to having no capacity. A person can have capacity to make some decisions but not to make other decisions. For example, the capacity necessary to decide where to invest money is different from the capacity necessary to decide whether to take a crafting class. A person’s capacity can also change over time, especially if the person is suffering from a degenerative disorder.
A capacity assessment determines an adult’s cognitive and functional capacity. A capacity assessment must be done before a person can apply for a co-decision-making order, guardianship order or trusteeship order.
The person who completes a capacity assessment is a capacity assessor. Capacity assessors must act according to a standard of conduct and must undergo training and continuing education.
Only certain professions are qualified to be capacity assessors, including medical doctors, psychologists, registered nurses, registered psychiatric nurses and mental deficiency nurses, occupational therapists, and social workers. A capacity assessor must be certified by the government.
The Government of Alberta publishes a list of qualified capacity assessors.
The assessment process
A capacity assessment includes three parts:
- The pre-assessment phase: The capacity assessor meets with the adult to explain the assessment and get the adult’s consent. The AGTA sets out a list of tasks that the capacity assessor must do in this phase.
- The medical evaluation: A medical practitioner conducts the medical evaluation. As part of the evaluation, the medical practitioner must rule out any temporary, reversible medical conditions affecting the adult’s capacity.
- The cognitive and functional inquiry: This is a standardized process conducted by the capacity assessor during a formal interview with the adult. During this interview, the capacity assessor forms an opinion about the adult’s capacity for each decision-making area under examination (personal matters, financial matters or both). The adult can be either “significantly impaired” or “incapacitated”.
The capacity assessor must complete a Capacity Assessment Report. The reports are different depending on the type of order being requested (co-decision-making, guardianship or trusteeship).
Frequently Asked Questions
Can someone else be with the adult during the capacity assessment?
Yes. An adult has the right to have a person present to help the adult feel comfortable and relaxed. That person must follow any directions of the capacity assessor. They may be asked to leave if they interfere with the process (for example, by answering questions for the adult).
Can an adult have an interpreter during the capacity assessment?
Yes. An adult has the right to have an interpreter present or to use a device to help them communicate.
What time of day does the capacity assessment happen at?
An adult is given the opportunity to complete the capacity assessment at a time when the adult will likely be able to demonstrate their full capacity.
When should a Capacity Assessment Report be completed?
In general, a Capacity Assessment Report cannot be dated more than six months before the date that the application is submitted to the Review Officer. If the report is older than six months, you can request in your application that the court consider the older report but the Review Officer does not have to accept it.
Can the court order a capacity assessment?
Yes. If an adult’s capacity to make decisions is an issue in a court proceeding, the court can order a capacity assessment. The court can also order that a capacity assessor be allowed to enter the adult’s home or that the adult go to a specific place for the assessment to be completed.
What if the adult refuses to complete the capacity assessment?
If an adult refuses to complete (or is prevented somehow from completing) a capacity assessment, the court can look at any evidence it thinks is relevant to the adult’s capacity. If the court thinks that it has enough evidence, it can make a decision about the adult’s capacity without a Capacity Assessment Report.
How much does a capacity assessment cost?
A capacity assessor can charge up to $500 for a capacity assessment about either an adult’s personal matters or financial matters. If the capacity assessor is asked to complete a capacity assessment about both the adult’s personal matters and financial matters, they can charge to up $700.
The court can allow the fee to be higher if the assessment is more complex.
The person requesting the capacity assessment can apply to have the government pay for the fee if they cannot afford it. However, the government will only pay for one assessment per adult per calendar year.
For more information about capacity and capacity assessments, see:
- CPLEA’s Adult Guardianship and Trusteeship Act booklet
- Government of Alberta web-page on Capacity Assessments
- Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee