Helping people with dementia make their own decisions

Don't make decisions for people with dementia that they can make themselves

People with dementia may have difficulty making some decisions but will be able to make other decisions themselves. For example, a person might not be able to make decisions about their medical treatment, but could make decisions about what they eat or which television programmes to watch.

Different people with dementia will be able to make different decisions. As the dementia progresses the decisions an individual will be able to make will change.

Sometimes you have got to make a decision to do something or other and you are not quite sure whether you should, so you need a very good friend to help you to go through it.

Person with dementia quoted in ‘My name is not dementia’ (Alzheimer’s Society, 2010)

For some people with dementia, there will be times when they could make a particular decision and times when it would be harder for them to do this. For example, many people with dementia find it harder to concentrate later in the day. If a decision can wait until a person can make it themselves, this is what must happen. 

Supporting people to make their own decisions

Where possible, people must be supported to make their own decisions. The kinds of support people with dementia may need include:

Some decisions are very difficult and people may need time to make them. People might also change their mind several times. This doesn't mean they can't make the decision themselves. 

What if I disagree with the person's decision?

Just because you think a person is not making a sensible decision doesn't mean that they can't make that decision for themselves. For example, a person might choose not to eat any vegetables or fruit. Another person might choose to spend more money on alcohol than you would.

The law says that people can make unwise decisions. For example, we all know it is unwise to smoke, but the law allows adults to do so.

If you are worried about a decision someone has made, you might want to check that they understand what they are doing.

The Social Care TV video, 'Raymond's Money', looks at the dilemma faced by a home care worker, Wendy, who is asked by Raymond, a man newly diagnosed with dementia, to place a large sum of money on the Lottery. Wendy doesn't think this is a good decision, but Raymond's wishes are clear. Notes accompanying the film discuss the principles of the Mental Capacity Act and how they can be applied to this story.


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Available downloads:

  • QCF Mapping: Helping people make their own decisions
  • Activity: Helping people make their own decisions
  • What the research says: Making decisions