Assessing Mental Competency in the Elderly

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Book Chapter

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This chapter examines various definitions of mental competence in the elderly and evaluates their advantages and limitations. The chapter presents an overview of diseases/disorders and the consequences of the normal aging process that can affect mental competence in order to provide a context in which questions of competence emerge and to forge a pathway for conceptualizing the assessment process. It also presents specific recommendations for the assessment process and reviews commonly used assessment methods. Legal definitions of competency have a critical role in assessing suspects' ability to waive any of their legal rights. Federal courts in the United States require that defendants have a basic understanding of interrogation rights as opposed to an appreciation of the consequences of waiving these rights. Most definitions of competence include multiple criteria and refer to a condition that is causing mental impairment. The Multidimensional Functional Assessment of Older Adults is designed to assess competency using a multi-component approach. This assessment battery utilizes the OARS Multidimensional Functional Assessment Questionnaire (OMFAQ) and a questionnaire administered in an interview format to examine functioning in specific areas relevant to competence. The chapter concludes with a discussion of ethical issues in research and health care with cognitively impaired persons.

Publication Title

Handbook of Forensic Psychology: Resource for Mental Health and Legal Professionals